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The Mind's Eye 

Volume S Number 1 


The Mind's Eye is a journal of review and comment 
published four times during the college year 
at North Adams, Massachusetts 01247 

Copyright © 1 980 by North Adams State College 

October 1980 


Robert Bishoff 
Stephen A. Green 
R. Michael Haines 
Charles Mclsaac 
Ellen Schiff 


Charles Mclsaac 


W. Anthony Gengarelly 

R. G. VUet 3 The Nature and Education of a Poet 

Out of the well of solitude the poet's voice utters (he world's passion. 

Denize C. Hogan 5 Women in the Church: Whose Problem? 

Traditional theology and biblical interpretation made God a male, 
religion a patriarchy, and sin a matter of putting self first. But there is 
another way of looking at God, religion, and sin. 


Arnold Barttni 7 Thoughts of Thoreau on a 45th Birthday 


Charles Mclsaac 2 The Editor's File 

The Archbishop's Dissent 

At the Fifth Synod of Bishops the Americans discreetly reopen the 
question of birth control. 

The Editor's File 

The Archbishop's Dissent 

The Synod of Bishops is meeting in Rome this 
month, addressing the role of the Christian 
family in the modern world. No unusual 
developments were anticipated, because the ground 
had been carefully laid out in a working paper pro- 
vided to the bishops in advance. 

At the first session, however, Archbishop John R. 
Quinn of San Francisco, President of the National 
Conference of Catholic Bishops, created an inter- 
national sensation with a speech on contraception 
citing statistical studies in the United States which 
show that 76% of Catholic women practice birth 
control and that only 29% of American priests believe 
it is wrong to do so. "The situation in the United 
States," said the archbishop, "is not unique and is 
paralleled in many countries today. Unless one is 
willing to dismiss the attitude of all these people as 
obduracy, ignorance, or bad will, this widespread 
opposition must give rise to serious concern." He 
went on to say that the church's approach is not 
adequate to the problem, that it should look for 
"nuances and clarifications" and "greater pastoral 
insights" in the application of the law in order to 
resolve the "impasse which is so harmful to the 

' I 1,,F LAW on birth control was most recently re- 
-L stated in all its stringency by Pope Paul VI in 
his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae— la the profound 
disappointment of the world, and against the recommen- 
dation of a study commission appointed by Pope 
John XXIII and expanded by Pope Paul. This docu- 
ment signaled the church's retreat from an ethi- 
cal dialogue concerned with the merits of natural law 
to the unassailable redoubts of faith and authority. 
Its promulgation was followed by an unprecedented 
disaffection of Catholics from the very authority to 
which it appealed. 

The situation has been described as a quiet revolt. 
To put out the fire, it would appear that the church 
must take one of two courses: either reiterate the 
doctrine uncompromisingly and suffer its losses, or 
change the law to accommodate conscience. But Arch- 
bishop Quinn sees a third choice in the resumption 
of dialogue between the Holy See and Catholic theo- 
logians that, through "patient, loving efforts," can 
reach a "meeting of minds which would result in a 
greater effectiveness for the church's mission." 

Official reaction to this seemingly pacific pro- 
posal was swift and unbending. On the next 

day Cardinal Pericle Felici, a curial conservative, 
declared that Humanae Vitae is a closed document. 
"There is no need of rediscussing it, no need," he 
added, with scarcely credible hubris, "to pay attention 
to statistics because statistics don't signify anything." 

In reply, Archbishop Quinn put out a clarification. 
He had not meant to challenge Humanae Vitae; his 
speech had been clear on this. What he had proposed 
was to deal in a "constructive way with the personal 
and demographic problems of the modern world" to 
the end of obtaining better understanding and accep- 
tance of church law, Somehow the clarification was 
not convincing. In calling for a "completely honest 
examination" of birth control, the speech had regis- 
tered the flavor of Galileo's reputed comment, after 
his recantation, "Nevertheless, it moves." 

It is futile to speculate on what will happen next, 
although we might guess that under John Paul II the 
church will not budge. It defies logic, however, to 
credit Cardinal Felici 's inference that three-fourths of 
Catholics are wandering in outer darkness. Demo- 
graphy alone, as the archbishop noted, discourages 
such a judgment. 

Bv coincidence, on Tuesday of the same week 
Robert McNamara, in a farewell address to the 
members of the World Bank, reproved the Western 
industrialized nations' insensitivtty to the anguish of 
800,000,000 inhabitants of the Third World who strug- 
gle in absolute poverty. Without population control 
policies, this fastest growing segment of humanity 
threatens the planet with an explosive imbalance. 
The developed countries themselves, in the opinion 
of most demographers, will soon reach the point of 
population saturation. 

The church is not heedless of these realities; it 
approves the idea of responsible parenthood. But it 
cannot permanently deny artificial birth control its 
place in the exeicise of responsibility. 

The action of Archbishop Quinn was a stroke of 
sound leadership. It is unthinkable that his initiative 
will be without effect and thai, in the long run, there 
will not he a radical change. Paul VI, twelve years 
ago, went to the brink but at the last moment turned 
back. His successor, with all his geniality an old-style 
cleric, will be more resistant— and the run may be 
long indeed. 

It is a question of how much time we have. While 
ecclesiastics ponder in exquisite deliberateness. hu- 
manity skates with gathering speed toward the edge 

° P e "'' —Charles Mclsaac 


R. G. Vliet 

The Nature and Education of a Poet 

Rebellion of the. Angels 

Most poets since the industrial revolution 
have come straight out of the bourgeois, 
like swans out of snake eggs. They are by 
nature rebellious against family, church, state and 
Coors beer. They rise like an occasional rocket above 
the cold-fried-chicken-and-potato-salad picnic of the 
middle class, or sometimes sink like a swimmer near- 
by, drowning unnoticed. Their compulsive rebellious- 
ness is directed toward this: to lift the scales from the 
eyes of the materially sated— the blind. 

Passion creates the poet's necessity and forces him 
to persist. It ramifies itself and seizes upon (in this 
case) an art form that allows it, more or less respec- 
tably to society, to realize itself. 

Plato was wise to keep the poet 
out of his republic. The Soviets mur- 
dered Mandefstam, caused Tsvetaeva 
to hang herself and humiliated Pas- 
ternak. "Art is the social act of a 
solitary man," Yeats said. Passion is 
overbearing; it will not endure hind- 
rances, and if it cannot in its potency obtain power or 
in its frustration destroy, as it sometimes wants to, it 
may violently create. Create poems, artifacts, edifices 
to shake the reader to his soul, tear the scales from his 

In the everyday miracle of the phenomenal world 
in which we are briefly emparadised, and sometimes 
stuck in Hell, perhaps existence is a mystery and our 
lives a pilgrimage. "To live is not just to stroll across 
a field," said Boris Pasternak in his poem "Hamlet." 

A sudden, intense perception of the real terms ol 
existence, experienced by a passionate sensibility insis- 
tent upon truth— a perception evolving out of its 
own perfect form, usually in the very process of 
creation (the event can be both frightening and ex- 
hilarating) — this is the state of grace the poet works 
and waits for. 

In a Formal Garden 

A formal education should provide the poet or 
anyone else with the basic skills that everyone 
must have, a broad range of information that he can 
draw upon in his efforts to synthesize and understand, 
mastery (perhaps) of some subject that might put 
food in his mouth and (what these days it most often 
does not provide) a disciplined mind that, through 
sheer will and logical capability, can apply itself 

Every bell you hear am'! the 
dinner bell. 

— Old Saying 

when necessary 10 the solution of problems and the 
absorption of information with which it may not be 

The writing of poetry cannot be taught. In October, 
1818, John Keats wrote, "The Genius of Poetry must 
work out its own salvation in a man. It cannot be 
matured by law and precept, but by sensation and 
watchfulness in itself." The proposition still holds. A 
degree in creative writing has the relationship to a 
poet that a sparkler has to a sunrise. 

It is the poem (and not only the contemporary 
poem) the young poet cherishes, studies, memorizes, 
shares and argues about with his friends that is his 
education. The title of every poet's life is Up from 
Mediocrity. The quality of the first 
poems that enthrall the young poten- 
tial poet is not what matters. In his 
passion he will exhaust these early 
enthusiasms soon enough. A super- 
ficial poem fades out of the con- 
sciousness like a drop of ink on the 
surface of the ocean. The young poet 
will go on to admire more accomplished poems, of 
greater integrity and power and aesthetic beauty. By 
degrees the level of his or her taste will rise. Since he 
is ambitious, he will write against the models he 
admires and so, by degrees, the quality of his own 
work will improve. There are almost always strongly 
evident influences of other poets in a young writer's 
own verse. There must be, if he is ever to mature. 
That is his education, 

One can learn the severe demands of an art form 
and the skills to meet those demands only at the feet 
of a master. Most of these are dead, but their mastery 
is alive and instructive in their poems. 

The Oaten Flute 

Sometime during the course of our first ac- 
quaintance with a poem we must read it aloud. 
The poem's meaning lies as much or more in its 
sound as in its statement. This is surely what Robert 
Frost was referring to when he wrote, "Poetry is the 
part that is lost in translation." 

The flood of translations of poetry from other 
languages into English during the past fifteen years 
has provided subversive models for young waiters, 
who may come to believe that statement, structure 
and "deep image" are all, that a translation is in fact 
a poem. It follows that their own work may lack a 

necessary dimension of sound. 

Both the writing and the reading of a poem are 
physicaf acts. In the first grade we were taught to 
read silently. Maybe our lips are motionless, but our 
throat muscles and tongue are veritable acrobats when 
we read, though we may not be aware of it. During 
the composition of a poem the intense, often trance- 
like, mental concentration, the annunci- 
ative thought and powerful emotion the 
poet is Hying to objectify and under- 
stand cause terrific unconscious muscle 
activity, in the throat especially, where 
they want to manifest themselves as 
sound. This muscular activity suggests 
to the consciousness sounds and sound 
relationships; words. The poet puts these 
on paper. 

In the reader these sound relationships 
cause a reciprocal physical response that 
affects the whole body. The reading of a true poem, 
silently or aloud, is necessarily a physical experience. 
Our lives as lived consist of a succession of concrete 
experiences which in their accumulation become what 
we are at any given moment. The poem has an 
opportunity to incorporate itself into our lives. 

The Dragon under the Bed 

ML, Rosenthal, in the chapter on Ezra Pound 
in his book Sailing into the Unknown, speaks 
of Homer (whose Odyssey is an energizing source for 
Pound's The Cantos) as an "archaic pragmatist whose 
world was in perfect balance between absolutely cer- 
tainty and absolute terror." This is a definition of the 
essential psychic condilion of the poet, and especially 
of the modern poet. 

Of Ezra Pound's work itself, Rosenthal uses the 
terms "never abstract," "rigor," "harshly intelligent 
and unsentimental." Pound is a touchstone many- 
poets refer to to remind them of the primal energy, 
the fierce mastery of form over necessity, the "never 
abstract" language at once barbaric and learned, the 
recreative immediacy that are intrinsic characteristics 
of the poet, that "archaic pragmatist," at least as 
manifested in the poem. 

Where do these characteristics come from, aside, 
perhaps, from an innate psychical propensity?. 

In his childhood the poet is most susceptible to 
instinct and racial memory. That is why children can 
paint or write poems Tilled with stunning and vital 
images, though usually not with much else. The 
child is vulnerable to his passions. He experiences 

K- G. Vhet, a poet and novelist, lives in nearby 
Stamford, Vermont. His most recent book of poems is 
Water and Stone, published in 1979 by Random 

them again and again like recurring tornados, and he 
is frightfully assaulted by images from the dark- 
ness of his psyche. He is completely aware, with 
giants always near at hand, of his physical frailly. 
He is close to the ground, with its dangers and 
miraculous happenings; his eyes aren't much above 
our knee level. 

In short, the child lives in the magic 
rawness of barbaric immediacy, a world 
of ecstacy and terror, elemental. It is a 
world many adults never come back to. 
But it is the state of awareness and 
emotional intuition the poet lives in all 
his life, a continual immediacy of vision 
and primitive awe. 

It is this knowledge of the terrible 
actuality of existence that makes the 
poet rebellious, since he cannot abide 
the patina put on existence by parents, 
schools, church, state, the media or a corrupt use of 
language itself. It is also what makes him necessary 
to us, today as much as ever. The poet exposes us to 
our essential nakedness— "poor bare, forked animal." 
The poet's primitive awe, his ecstacy at the miracle of 
natural phenomena, his insistence upon iruth and, 
often, his sense of humor can help keep us sane in a 
time of governmental and technological reduction of our 
souls to obedient consumerism. 

We are born to die, and we learn what we are 
mainly through suffering and joy. This is what the 
poet tells us again and again. 

Forty Days in the Negev 

FOR the pokt, solitude is the mother of invention. 
The poet must love solitude and, as a child, 
must be allowed it. In the contemporary world there 
is an imminent danger of solitude being destroyed, of 
children being kept from it so constantly they may 
never learn it exists. "Our new forms of life, which 
drive man oul murderously from all inner contempla- 
tion ..." wrote Stefan Zweig in 1943. 

"The artist," Cyril Connolly has said, "like the 
mystic, naturalist, mathematician or "leader,' makes 
his contribution out of his solitude. This solitude the 
state is now attempting to destroy, and a time may 
come when it will no more tolerate private inspiration 
than the church once tolerated privaie worship." 
It is in the silence the annunciation may come. 


The Genie in the Bottle 
he child who becomes a poet will love books. 
He will love to hold them, feel their covers, 
turn them in his hands. A book in his hand is as 
valuable as a gold or silver box. He knows there are 
magic powers locked inside. He can feel the force of 
these powers even before he opens the book, as he 


holds the potent thickness and squareness of it in his 
hand. Inside, about to seize upon his imagination, is 
the priestly certitude of print, each word a wafer. 

The child learned to spell in school. They were not 
magic words. He'd like to make magic words. He'd 
like to make his own hook of magic. He may sew or 
paste a few pages of blank paper together and give it 
some semblance of a cover. At first he may paste in 
things, perhaps just panels o( a comic strip. In time 
the nascent poet will put in words of his own. 

When he is older, if he has caught the scribbler's 
habit, he may keep a workbook in his desk into 
which he'll copy his own tentative poems. He may do 
this secretly, or he may share it with others, He will 
read poems omnivorously. His parents won't under- 
stand what the hell has gone wrong with him. He 
will eventually become a great disappointment to his 
parents. They will be particularly disappointed the 
day he brings something to them of his own in print, 
in some obscure magazine. All his former classmates 
are doing so well in accounting or realty. 

He will long to publish a book of his own, a 
confirmation of his magic powers, Even Emily Dick- 
inson longed to hold the solid, square, magic shape 
of her own book in her hands, though in her lifetime 

she had to settle for those handsewn packets hidden 
in a bureau drawer. "Always in ink," Thomas John- 
son writes in his introduction to the Complete Poems, 
"the packets are gatherings of four, five, or six sheets 
ol folded stationery loosely held together by thread 
looped through them in the spine, at two points 
equidistant from the top and bottom." There are 
forty-nine of them. 

The Poet 

The prime moment the poet lives for is that 
solitary condition of intense concentration when 
the room grows cold and his breaths alter and he 
moves into the terrible clarity of perception and 
awful thudding down of line after line of seemingly 
exact (the critical faculty may later decide otherwise) 
truth and aesthetic order — in ever greater and greater 
swiftness as if it were a tree lifting and shaking out of 
the ground — until he comes at last to the instant of 
annunciation that is the arrival and meaning of the 
poem, when its existence is still wet and hurting 
from the muscular ejection and its place in the accum- 
ulation of experience is new, when the poet exists 
again in that state of grace that is a complete loss of 
self, a surrendering of self to a greater integrity. 

A Feminist Critiq ue of Male Religious Monopoly 

Women in the Church: Whose Problem? 

by Denise C. Hogan 

I. dealing with the knotty and often confusing 
issue of women in the church, I must state at the 
outset that insofar as we single out the place of 
women as a special problem in the church, in the 
Bible, in history, or in any other area, we reflect a 
cultural perspective which assumes that male exis- 
tence and experience constitute the normative expres- 
sion of human existence and experience, and that 
women are defined as "the other" in relation to men. 
Feminists reject this cultural bias. Feminist thinkers 
and writers strive to show how deeply and universally 
that assumption has penetrated the human psyche in 
every sphere of activity. Feminists in general labor to 
rectify the situation by bringing female experience, 
knowledge, and insights to bear upon the continuing 
quest for human development and progress in what- 
ever mode that quest is carried forward. In examining 
this topic, I do so from the position of one who joins 
in the rejection of its particular cultural viewpoint 
and who sees the "problem" from the "other" range 
of vision. 

It comes as no news that feminists in both tradi- 

tions have identified Judaism and Christianity as 
sexist religions with a male God and traditions of 
male leadership which legitimate the primacy, even 
superiority, of men in the family and in society. 
Christian feminists, while maintaining that religion 
is a profoundly meaningful element in human exis- 
tence, nevertheless maintain with equal vigor that 
Christianity must be reformed and recast if it is to 
affirm and uphold the full human dignity of women. 
In its theological, spiritual, and disciplinary tra- 
ditions, the Christian church fails to speak to and 
reach out to women at several critical points of their 

Feminist theologians have introduced a creative 
tension into traditional Christian theologizing.' 
Central religious symbols, the science of biblical herm- 
eneutics, even the formulation of doctrine itself have 
been called into question and held up to the light of 
a new day and a new (an "other") vision reflective of 
the female experience and understanding of reality. 
Perhaps the most publicized theological controversy 


of [his sort is that concerning the matter of "God 
language" and religious symbolism. From the perspec- 
tive of feminist theology, the image of God as male 
not only is in blatant contradiction with the ancient 
Hebraic insistence on the spiritual and immaterial 
nature of the Divine Person, but also continues to 
foster a sexually imbalanced society, giving divine 
sanction to an order characterized as patriarchal or 
male dominated. 2 A critical inquiry into the deepest 
significance of the Christian symbol system in this 
regard is crucial to the development of Christian 
theology if it is to move beyond its tendency merely 
to rationalize (he traditional claims of the Christian 
witness, claims which in themselves are culturally 
and historically limited, 3 

Appeals for the justification of patriarchy are fre- 
quently made to the authority of the Bible. 
There we read thai woman was made after man, that 
she brought sin, death, and suffering into the world, 
and that by the command of God she 
was made subject to man." 1 Modern bibli- 
cal scholarship has demonstrated, how- 
ever, that the biblical authors did not 
intend to write a factual historical nar- 
rative, but that they, like all ancient 
historians, intended to expound the mean- 
ing and inifiortance of what had occurred 
in human history. Also, studies of the 
sociocultural conditions concurrent with 
the rise of Christianity demonstrate that 
it cannot be justifiably argued that Jesus 
as a Jew of the first century could not 
have had women disciples or even apos- 
tles, or that women could not have serv- 
ed the Christian community in such 
leadership roles as deaconesses and 
prophets.'' Here again, the consequences of these discov- 
eries for the actual, active functioning of women in 
the Christian church are startling. 6 Since most biblical 
scholars and historians are men, they study and preach 
the scriptures from a male point of view. They not 
only translate biblical texts into a masculinized lan- 
guage, but also they interpret them from the patriar- 
chal perspective to which they are accustomed. Recon- 
ciling the dogmatic criteria of biblical hermeneutics 
with the literary criteria (which include language and 
historical background) has always presented serious 
problems to the scholar. The recent findings concern- 

Denise C. Hogan, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy al 
North Adams State College, holds the Ph.D. in Re- 
ligious Studies from Boston University and is the 
author of "Reflections on Discipleship." in Women 
Priests: A Catholic Commentary on The Vatican 

ing women in the early Christian movement make it 
imperative that biblical scholars continue their work 
of rediscovering and reaffirming women's "role" and 
"place" in the church so that women today and in 
the future may resume their traditional activities as 
leaders and helpers in the Christian community. 

ATHiRn area of theological exploration which is of 
great importance for the practical and spiritual 
life of the Christian woman is that of the definition 
and understanding of sin. According to many theo- 
logians influenced by the philosophy of existential- 
ism, sin is the self's attempt to overcome the anxiety 
of estrangement and aloneness by magnifying its own 
power and importance and by convincing itself that 
it and its concerns are of paramount urgency in the 
overall scheme of things. This projection of the self 
into the position of primacy results in the idolization 
of one's own subjectivity and the subordination of all 
else to personal desires, aims, drives, and ambitions. 

The resulting doctrine of sin emphasizes 
the quality of estrangement as inherent 
in the human situation — estrangement 
from one's essential being as good, and 
estrangement from God as the object of 
one's ultimate concern. Rather than be- 
ing an isolated act, sin is perceived as 
an attitude or stance characterized by 
the designation of the self as the object 
of ultimate concern in one's moral and 
practical life. This notion of sin, valid 
though it may be for men wtio live 
amid the tensions of what has been term- 
ed our "hypermasculinized modern era," 
has been without meaning for the great- 
est number of in that same period. 

The modern era is usually designated 
as that span of time which extends, roughly speaking 
from the Renaissance and Reformation up to the 
present tune, and which reached peaks of development 
with the rise of capitalism, the industrial revolution, 
the growth of a personaiistic philosophy, the ascen- 
dance of science and technology, and such other 
prodigious events as mark the eighteenth, nineteenth, 
and twentieth centuries, This period might be called 
the masculine age par excellence because of its empha- 
sis upon precisely those aspects of human behavior 
which are of particular signilicance to men: the great 
value of external achievement, the intensification of 
the spirit of competition, the separation of the human 
from the natural, the manipulation of the natural 
world for scientific and technological purposes, the 
privatization of the home and its separation from the 
public life ot business and politics, and the increased 
relegatton of the female to the private spheres of 
domestic, religious, and artistic-cultural pursuits. 
These and other developments intensified and expand- 


Thoughts of Thoreau 
on a 45th Birthday 

by Arnold Bartini 

By this age you had fused, 

Henry David, 

into that Nature 

which Emerson had taught you. 

Sharing the nourishment 

of the scrub oak, 

the fallen years 

quickened new life 

in that journal where 

(onre planted) 

your thoughts would grow, 

formidable against winter death. 

Arnold Bartim is 
Assistant Professor of English 

Oh, ran you hear the bird stir 

over that stone 

capping your earth fusion? 

Can a stone deter that stride 

which measured the Concord Marsh? 

And will the bird stir be heard 

to startle the Walden fog 

through April's reawakening 

many birthdays hence? 

ed the challenge to the male and increased his loneli- 
ness and sense of estrangement from nature and na- 
ture's God. 

This, however, does not describe the experienc e of 
the modern woman. Unless she, too, has accep- 
ted the prevailing values of the age and taken to 
herself the same mentality, challenges, risks, oppor- 
tunities, and insecurities of the masculine world, her 
"human situation" is quite different.' She is not 
pervaded by an all-encompassing sense of estrange- 
ment and alienation from the natural world. The fart 
that for centuries the realms of the physical and the 
natural in their most despised and rejected forms (i.e., 
as inferior, alien, and controllable) have been allo- 
cated to women as their special demesne lias kept 
women from developing attitudes of separation and 
hostility towards them. The polarization of reality by 
man and his assumption of control over those areas 
designated as "spiritual" or intellectual in character, 
such as religion, education, government, the law, 
science, and philosophy, has left woman to cultivate 
and develop those other areas assigned to her: the 
birth, nurturing, and socialization of children, the 
various domestic arts and crafts, skills directed to- 
wards the management of feelings, especially within 
the family unit, and skilis directed towards hospitality 
and the satisfaction of the needs of those around her. 

Further, traditional teaching regarding Christian vir- 
tue focuses upon the development of such passive 
qualities as meekness, humility, obedience, self-denial, 
and the service of others, and it is easily demonstrable 
that this ideology has been much more generally 
accepted by women than by men, a situation which 
has only served to reinforce the ideals of deference 
and subservience in women. Is it any wonder that the 
woman who does not share the chive for external 
achievement, the need to separate herself from nature 
and its vagaries, the view of the natural world as 
inferior, alien, and subject to human exploitation, 
and the need to view the home as a purely private 
domain and refuge from the world at large, has an 
equally difficult time with a theology which identifies 
sin as overweening pride, will-to- power, exploitation, 
self-assertiveness, and the treatment of both persons 
and the natural world as objects for personal pleasure 
and profit? 

Thk point at issue here is not that woman is not 
tempted to sin, but that the kind of sin to which 
she is tempted is significantly different, and this 
because of the difference in her own experience and 
understanding of the same reality, A tendency towards 
excessive attention to extraneous detail in the face of 
larger issues, a concern for private satisfaction and an 
unwillingness to sacrifice domestic rewards lor partiei- 


pation in less personally rewarding political or public 
activities, a hesitation 10 risk independent involve- 
ment, personal criticism, or lark of social acceptance 
in the pursuit of private or professional goals, and an 
overriding concern to please and meet the expectations 
of those who have defined and circumscribed her 
.amilial, social, political, religious, and professional 
identity are the temptations faced by today's woman. 
Yielding to any or all of these keeps 
her from asserting her own identity 
(in effect, rejecting her self) as well as 
the truth and value of the specifically 
female tradition to which she is heir 
and in which all reality is seen as 
dynamically interrelated. The failure 
to pursue, analyze, understand, and 
interpret specifically female realities 
and values prevents today's woman 
from sharing the universal signifi- 
cance of her own unique experience and further 
impoverishes a world already dangerously lacking 
such insights and understandings. 

Similar analyses may be made of other definitions 
dealing with the existence of sin and evil in the 
world. A plurality of theological methodologies, in- 
cluding those emerging from the feminist perspec- 
tive, must be incorporated into the search for the 
fullness of the Christian message. 


[, 5« Sarah Bentley Doely, ed-. Women's Liberation and tin- 
Church: The Neu' Demand for Freedom in the Life of the Christian 
Church (New York: Association Press, Published in cooperation 
with IDOC-North America, 1970); Rosemary Radford Ruether. 
New Women. New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation 
(New York: .Seabury Press. A Crossroad Book, 1375); and Ruether, 
ed., Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman m the Jewish and 
Christian Traditions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974). Also 
Sheila D. Collins. A Different Heaven and Earth [Valley Forge, 
Pa.: Judson Press, 1974); Elisabeth Sehussier Fiorenza, "Feminist 
Theology as a Critical Theology of Liberation," Theological 
Studies 36, no. 4 (December 1975): 60S-26. 

2. Mary Daly. "After the Death of God the Father: Women's 
I ibtratrm and tin I rtnslomiaii::n of Christian C-n3c|-usii: :.:: 
in Womanspiril Rising, ed. Carol P. Christ arid Judith Plaskow 
(San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979). pp. 53-62, See also Casey 
Miller and Kate Swift, 'Women and Ihe Language of Religion," 
Christian Century, 14 April 1976, pp. 353-58. An interesting commen- 
tary on the development of male imagery for the Divine Person ran 
be found in Raphael Palai, The Hebrew Goddess (New York: 
K.TAV Publishing House, 1967). 

3. Schubert M. Ogden makes this point in another context in 
Faith and Freedom: Toward a Theology of Liberation (Nashville 
Term.: Abingdon Press, 1979). 

4. Biblical exegeli Phyllis Trible reexamines this "proof text" in 
her essay "Eve and Adam: Genesis 2-3 Reread" in Womanspiril 
Rising, pp.7 1 83. 

The task of examining the spiritual and disciplin- 
ary traditions of the Christian churches with a 
view towards explicating their shortcomings from a 
feminist point, of view lies beyond the scope of this 
exposition. The foregoing examination of certain 
theological inadequacies inherent in the teaching 
and preaching of Christianity is intended as a concise 
introduction to some of the more pressing concerns 
of Christian feminists when faced 
with the "problem" of women's 
"place" and "role" in the church. Fem- 
inist theologians have dealt with each 
of these in greater depth and should 
be consulted for a clearer under- 
standing of the dimensions and serious- 
ness of the issue. 8 Much is at stake, as 
they clearly prove, for two poles of 
interpretation have already emerged 
within the feminist understanding of 
experience itself. With special reference to religious 
experience, each of these leads to a new and very 
different understanding of religion and the church 
for the women involved. With this in mind, it is my 
hope that the above reflections will lead the reader to 
reconsider the "problem" of women in the church, 
with a deeper appreciation of its subtleties and the 
recognition that it is the problem of men — and wom- 
en—who must first liberate themselves if a solution is 
to he found. 

a Among other scholars who hold this view are Raymond E. 
Brown. "Roles of Women in the Fourth Gospel," Thfological 
Studies 36, no. 4 (December 1975): 688-99; Elisabeth Fiorenza, 
"Women in the Early Christian Movement." in Womansptrit Rising. 
pp. 84-92; Leonard Swidler, "Jesus was a Feminist," Catholic 
World 212 (January 1971): 177-83. 

6. On the question of the ordination of women see Emily C. 
Hewitt and Suzanne R. Hiall, Women Priests, Yes or tVo? (New 
York: Seabury Press, 1973); Leonard Swidler and Arlene Swidler, 
eds., Women Priests: A Catholic Commentary on the Vatican 
Declaration (New York: Paulisi Press, 1977). 

7. This thesis was fully developed in I960 by theologian Valerie 
Saiving. Her essay "The Human Situation: A Feminine View" is 
reprinted in Womansptrit Rising, pp. 25-42. Another view of sin 
more consonant with feminist theology and grounded in process 
metaphysics is developed by Schubert M. Qgden in Faith and 
Freedom, pp. 82-87. 

8. For a thoughful explication of the impart of feminism on 
religious understanding arid the disagreement about which ol 
women's experiences are authentic and can become the basis for 
cultural and religious transformation, and which must be re- 
pudiated as the creation of a sexist ideology, see the introduction 
to Womanspirit Rising, pp. 1-17. 

Drawings by Leon Van Peters, North Adams State 
College, and Susan Morris, East Dover, Vermont.